When I first saw these ethereal images, extremely delicate and light in a way that seems not to be of this world, I had to find out who the artist was. Zena Holloway photographs exclusively underwater, with her love of water starting as early as 18, when she was a fully qualified Scuba instructor. We were beyond excited when she wanted to do an interview with us, find out more about her here…
Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you first get into photography?
My first camera was a little yellow underwater motor marine made by Sea & Sea which looked far more like a children’s toy than a camera. My mother bought it for me for my 18th birthday present when I was working abroad in Egypt as a SCUBA dive guide. From there I swatted up on underwater photography with a few books that I found lying around the diving centre and I taught myself the basics of shooting underwater. I seem to remember getting it wrong a lot of the time at the start but slowly the pictures improved and I learned how to measure light and what made a good image. My first great subject was a blue spotted ray who kindly sat for me for about 20 minutes as I fumbled with the settings. I still have the pictures.
What is it that you love about being underwater and did this inspire you to pursue a photography career?
I remember regularly just hanging around underwater, alone and feeling mesmerised by the beauty and excitement of perhaps seeing a huge pelagic creature swim by. I like solitary, open spaces and the ocean environment is nothing but that. From here on I was certain I wanted to work underwater behind a camera but I wasn’t sure if this would be with wildlife, moving or still cameras. At 21 I returned to the UK and spent the next few years getting by as a freelance diver and film camera assistant or clapper loader. On the side I set up some very basic underwater photography shoots of my own and somehow managed to scoop a small commission from Fabergé. From here on my course was set, I found an agent and looked to establish myself as a commercial underwater photographer.
What is your creative process like?
I confess I’m not one of those wonderfully crazy people with an elastic mind stretching off at tangents all of the time and obsessing with work. I wish that I was less ordered, less literal and more radical, however the upside is that I’m content to let the ideas or the situations to create arrive in their own time. I need to create but not in a way that is destructive. One of the great things about working solely underwater is that I can pull references from all sorts of sources and once applied to an underwater environment the results take on their own direction. On an editorial shoot where creativity is allowed to evolve and the water plays its part there are lots of opportunities to create something different. The trick is to recognise when the accidental process is going in a good direction and when a different approach is needed. The more references I start with, the more ideas I find to move the work forward.
Aside from your camera and lighting, what item could you not work without?
A pot of Vaseline…I use it on my hair to grease it back and prevent the chlorine from turning it to straw.
Where can we find you online?